The Courage of Dieu Cay and Natalya Radzina

NYTimes  April 19, 2012

The Committee to Protect Journalists has named 12 countries — including Iraq, Russia, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Mexico — to its annual “impunity index” because they allow deadly violence against the press to go unpunished. The threats to journalists are also highlighted in a welcome, new State Department initiative. From now until World Press Freedom Day, May 3, the department’s HumanRights.gov Web site will tell the stories of people who have been killed, jailed or otherwise blocked from reporting the news and exercising the fundamental right to free speech.

The first case, posted Wednesday, involves Dieu Cay, a Vietnamese blogger who has been imprisoned since 2008 on the trumped-up charge of property tax evasion. His real “offense”: writing on sensitive human rights and corruption issues in Vietnam and criticizing China’s human rights record. On Thursday, it called attention to Natalya Radzina, a prominent democratic activist from Belarus, who was beaten and jailed by her government before going into political exile in Lithuania last year.

Many repressive governments predictably denounce the calls for free speech and a free press as an attempt to impose Western values. Yet the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by 167 countries, says that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers.”

A version of this editorial appeared in print on April 20, 2012, on page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: The Courage of Dieu Cay and Natalya Radzina.